Category Archives: Mental Health

Winter Survival Guide (13) ~ Sleep well.

During those holiday days when you may not have the structure of your usual routine, it can be easy to fall into bad sleep patterns. That’s not to say you can’t stay up late, but just over all make sure that you are getting the right amount of sleep for your wellbeing, I think between 7 to 8 hours a night is recommended. Try not to oversleep or deprive yourself of sleep, and if you need to nap during the day from time to time, then perhaps the winter ‘hibernation’ and holiday period affords a good opportunity for you to catch up on your rest and recharge your body and mind.

Keep everything in balance as much as you can. You might have a lot of events to attend to (or you may not) such as family gatherings, work nights out, meeting up with friends, or maybe travel as well. Be careful not to overstretch yourself while you try to make the most of your time, and be mindful of how important good sleep is for your overall health and wellbeing.

Rest well. 🙂

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Winter Survival Guide (7) ~ Don’t Face Loneliness Alone.

In this increasingly ‘connected’ world, loneliness can be an uncomfortable admission. When faced with images and stories of all the fun things other people are doing (or seem to be), particularly via online media, the ache that we are missing out can be all too acute especially as the winter season approaches.

For some who work in office based jobs, the end of the year may mean office closures over the festive season. Most of us welcome time off work to rest, relax, recuperate, and to spend time with family and friends, and maybe even to travel. However, for some people, this time of year is like a looming dark cloud, bringing with it a downpour of loneliness and isolation.

Maybe it is the case that you don’t have anyone to go home to, which is fine if at least you have other social contacts. But maybe you are far from home, or don’t even have friends or family, and the most social interaction you usually have is from colleagues at work.  But when you’re not at work, you’re on your own. I live alone, and personally I find time alone very refreshing – I’m the type of person who thrives from a lot of solitude, but perhaps I am able to do so because I know that my family is just a phone call away, and I have a wide network of close friends. For others, a lack of relationships or an abundance of shallow and surface relationships can leave them feeling very empty, isolated and alone, even in a room full of people.

Loneliness can come to anyone at any stage of life, and for a variety of different reasons, as unique as each individual is. However, some people in society, such as the elderly, or young office workers far from home in a busy and unfriendly city environment, or people working overseas, or those who are bereaved, struggle to make social connections or feel like outsiders in some way might be more vulnerable to loneliness. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but when it becomes debilitating and consuming, that’s when it can be dangerous, therefore we all need to look out for each other, even for those who on the surface seem ‘gregarious’ but who underneath don’t have any real deep connections or relationships to turn to.  The season may also be particularly lonely for those who are perhaps single and longing for companionship while faced with lots of social invitations for couples, or for those facing family stresses, and maybe even separation or divorce.

There’s no easy or quick fix solution, but it’s important not to try to go through a period of loneliness alone, because when we are not in a good place, the isolation that would otherwise be a fruitful and enjoyable solitude can turn into a negative and unhealthy place to be.

Whether you are facing a deep loneliness that leaves you feeling vulnerable mentally and emotionally, or whether you are mostly fine but have the occasional ‘pang’ of loneliness during those dark wintery nights, you don’t have to face it alone.

What can you do?

  • Reach out to friends and family if you have them. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about how you feel, at least just reach out and talk – about anything – keep the lines of communication open, phone or meet up for a chat, and enjoy being in the company of people who know and love you, even if you are not yet ready or willing to share your deepest thoughts and feelings about what you are experiencing.

 

  • Perhaps you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to. In that case, it can be a good idea to reach out to charitable organisations that exist to help people in such situations. During times of my deepest depression and post traumatic stress, even though I have family and friends who I can phone to talk to, I didn’t always feel that I could. I carried the burden of not wanting to be a constant source of worry to the people who cared about me, and also being mindful of the sheer impracticalities of phoning or reaching out to someone while I was in distress in the middle of the night when they would be sleeping. So I found solace in calling helplines like Samaritans in the UK, and it did help to have someone to talk to in that time of distress. Thankfully I don’t feel the need to do that now, but I would encourage anyone and everyone to reach out to the people who have been trained to help those in need, and find some solace there. It may not be ideal, I know first hand how it feels when you’re in that position, but it can be such a life line, and even if you don’t need a life line as such, it can still be a source of comfort, solace and just the right thing at the right time to help you on your way.

 

  • Find ways of being in situations that don’t make you feel socially anxious, but in which you can have even a small degree of social interaction. You might like to visit a library, join a group, or go to a coffee shop or a museum, or volunteer to help other people. All of these provide opportunities to engage with other people, even if just on an initial and surface level. It may not take your loneliness away, but it will remind you that you are connected to people, to society and even those simple interactions can have a positive effect, even if only in the short term, on our mental health.

 

  • If you really can’t face any of the above, maybe you might find it worthwhile talking to your doctor. And for those times when you are just on your own and struggling with loneliness, you could perhaps seek out positive articles, videos and blog posts from people who share what has helped them in similar situations and life experiences. Be careful not to go down the route, however, of indulging in emotionally burdensome, negative or draining content – seek out those with messages of courage, hope, inspiration, and positivity who can point you towards positive changes and ways of coping. And remember although the winter is here for the time being, things will change, and spring will soon be on its way.

 

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Winter Survival Guide (6) ~ Mind Games.

Mind games, in a positive sense, of course! 🙂

Those long, cold, dark winter nights can be particularly challenging if we struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression and low mood. They also might just get us down generally, as with less opportunity to stay busy outside, we may find ourselves in a bit of a mental and emotional ‘slump’ or fugue, as we are sometimes forced to stay away from our regular activities, and as such the ‘winter blues’ might get a hold of us.

We all too easily can become passive consumers of information, spending hour upon hour in front of the TV for example, and our minds can suffer for it. Without positive distractions and mental stimulation where we are actively involved rather than passively consuming, we also may fall into a state of rumination which can negatively impact our mental health.

One thing we can do, especially if we find that we are spending those long, cold, dark winter nights on our own is to actively engage our minds, train our brains and keep mentally fit and active. You could read, study, engage in new or old hobbies, for example and I will come to these in turn later. However, a fun and relaxing way to keep mentally fit is to play ‘mind games’ – no, not the kind of negative mind games in relating to other people – but games that will challenge you mentally.

These could be, for example, card games on the computer, word challenges, puzzles, board games or chess if you have company, riddles and such like. Something which you actively need to think about and engage in. Never underestimate the importance of looking after your mental health, and remember that there are fun ways that you can do this too!

What about  you? What would your ‘go to’ mental health activity be?

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Winter Survival Guide (5) ~ Take a Break and Drink Some Festive Tea!

I’m a chai tea latte kind of a girl. Just saying 🙂

These seasons quite often not only get a lot colder, but become much busier as well. For a lot of us busier can equate to things being more stressful. However, all is not lost, as with the approaching winter season, coffee shops, cafes, tea rooms and the like all start introducing those wonderfully named and flavoured festive drinks to keep us warm, cosy and happy.

So don’t be afraid to take care of yourself and take a break. Self care is important all throughout the year, but during the winter seasons we can sometimes put ourselves last while trying to tick a lot of the boxes on our ‘to do lists’ while also trying to be charitable, helpful, get things done and keep everyone else happy.

A cosy break and a hot cuppa every now and then can do wonders. Especially with so many new varieties of flavours to try, it is the season to be cosy! Or even to sit in your own home on your own, with your family or a friend or two and sip a hot drink while eating some sweet treats and catching up or watching a film….or even, writing your amazing blog posts!

It’s also nice to remember others at this time of year, and extend a ‘cup of kindness’ yet as Auld Lang Syne. Maybe that cup of kindness could be in the offering of a hot drink to a homeless person out in the cold on a winter’s day. As we care more for ourselves, we also are able to care and give more for others.

So, what festive flavours take your fancy? Hot chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon sticks, pumpkin spice, mulled wine, toasted marshmallow, gingerbread latte, or something equally exciting that I haven’t heard of before? Drop me a comment and let me know what your cuppa of choice is. Personally I think you can’t beat a good old fashioned tea, or chai tea latte (with cinnamon), or of course a good old hot chocolate on a cold winters day!

cookie cup drink food
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Winter Survival Guide (4) ~ Take Stock, and Stock Up.

A beautiful analogy of life is winter. The latter seasons of the year one might compare with the changing tones and mood of life as one ages. As with a carefree youth and young adulthood, the beginning of the year is often filled and overflowing with doing things, getting things done, making plans, achieving, going places, exploring, dreaming, figuring things out, seeing the world, and finding one’s passion. How many of us look upon January as a fresh new start, and begin dreaming of and planning for the wonderful adventures in the year ahead? However, as time moves on, and the year draws to a close, as things mature, and aspects of life fall away, the mood becomes somewhat more pensive, more reflective, a time for thinking, for evaluating, for finding meaning, for ‘taking stock’.

The winter months provide a perfect opportunity for ‘taking stock’ in a number of ways. It is a good time to consider how you have spent the past year, whether you used your time wisely, faced your challenges bravely, have grown in character, have shown love, lived out your purpose and made the world a little kinder than before. It is also a good time to ‘rest and be thankful’, and to think upon our individual journey through life, our faith, our personal beliefs and whether we have found the answers we have been searching for, whether indeed we have been asking the right questions of our short lives on earth in the first place (questions which yield answers of eternal significance), whether we have to ‘dig a bit deeper’, or whether we have been ‘frittering our time away’ and wasting the gifts, talent and time given to us. These deep things are definitely a reason to pause for thought.

However, on a much lighter and more practical note, this time of year is also a good opportunity for taking stock of the day to day things of our lives. Perhaps thinking about these practical things is more to your liking, so here are some suggestions of where you could start.

  • Take stock of what you have at home, what you need to let go of, and what you need to stock up on.
  • For example, do you have the things you need to see you through this season? Things such as medicines, cough and cold supplies, a stock of food in your pantry including all of those helpful non-perishable items, toiletries, first aid kits, warm clothes, and so forth?
  • Before going out and buying all of the things you need for winter time, have a look through what you have already got and make the best use of those items. As my Mum still tells me, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” (Wise words, thanks Mum! 🙂 x ).
  • Similarly, if you have more than you need, or have gone through the year not using what you have such as clothes, then consider donating some of these items to people who will get good use out of them. This is something that I keep meaning to do, but need to actually put into action this year. If I’m not using it, shouldn’t I give someone else the chance to?
  • Having taken stock of what we have, what we can let go of, and what we need, it’s a good time to ‘stock up’ for the winter – especially for those cold nights when you don’t feel like going out to get something from the shops, having something at hand comes in very useful!

So over to you – what are the types of things you are taking stock of this winter season, whether practical or more in terms of your values and life journey? Do you have any hints and tips to share with the rest of us?

As always, stay warm and cosy. 🙂 x

bazaar bottles business ceramic
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Winter Survival Guide (3) ~ Walk While there is Light.

At this time of the year, the days are growing shorter and darkness sets in a lot earlier. It can be oh so tempting to spend most of our days inside, however, our bodies still need whatever sunlight we can get and while the days are still light, and reasonably temperate, my encouragement is to make the most of that by stepping outside whenever we can. It’s early November, and here although we have rainy and windy days, they are also interspersed with days like today where it is calm, still, and reasonably bright, albeit a little cold.

The ‘Brits’ are probably well known for talking about the weather a lot, but it’s probably because  things are so changeable over here. We can’t be guaranteed sun in the summer, and when it comes, we all get very excited about it. In Scotland, like Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, these can often occur in one day!

At the moment, we are blessed with some crisp, cold, sometimes even bright autumnal days. I need to remind myself to make the most of these, to not spend an entire Saturday indoors, but to go for a walk while I still can, to wander down to the park and to enjoy the wildlife. It is beautiful, and so good for us to take in a bit of nature and breathe in some fresh air. Bearing in mind the winter seasons here often bring with them wilder weather, lashing rain and wind, and even snow, I really ought to enjoy as much ‘outside time’, even if that means a simple short walk, while I can.

It is good not only for the body, but also for those of us who have to work at our mental health, whether that may be depression, anxiety or some other condition, it is good also for the mind. So let’s make the most of the brighter and more temperate days while we can….for we know that they are very likely set to change very soon!

photo of person holding umbrella
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Winter Survival Guide (2) ~ Where in the World are you from?

One of the most fascinating things about blogging on Word Press, is the amazing insight into the variety of countries that you, my lovely readers, represent. I’m sometimes amazed at the countries and flags that pop up to show me where people are viewing my blog from. It makes me really excited, and I welcome you all. If you want to introduce yourself or post a comment on which country you are from and what November and December is like for you where you are, then that would be splendid! 🙂

That being said, and knowing that some of you live in places where the sun is still shining at this time of the year, I’ll let you in on a little ‘secret’. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m writing from not-so-sunny Scotland! Your colder temperatures would probably be what we consider to be ‘summer’ weather 🙂

And so, some of the things I write about on ‘surviving winter’ may seem a little odd depending on where you are from, but that’s part of the adventure of learning more about life in different parts of the world.

My advice from this post is a short and simple one to begin with, now that the introductions have taken place, and that is to wrap up, stay warm, and cosy.

black brown and white kittens in purple towel
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Winter Survival Guide (1) ~ Introduction.

It’s that beautiful and thought-provoking time of year again, filled with contrasts on so many levels. Autumn is passing, and winter is almost upon us. The vibrancy of leaves bursting into exciting shades of red, orange, yellow, gold, green and brown, will in a short time give way to bare or sparse branches, a stillness, perhaps darker, colder, greyer days, and maybe even a hint of snow.

Perhaps you live in a warmer and sunnier clime than I do, but here people are beginning to sense the change in the air, and it’s that time again to stay indoors, to get warm and cosy and prepare for in a sense a mini ‘hibernation’.

People approach such times of the year differently. You may have read my previous post to encourage and help those of us who might find certain aspects of these seasons at least a little bit challenging. The link is below for those of you who would like to read it or be reminded of some of the things you can do to prepare yourself.

However, I’m also going to start a series of shorter, more ‘bitesized’ posts to encourage us on various aspects of how we can survive and thrive during the winter season, so that you can dip in and out of the ones that interest you. So watch this space, I’ll be posting more very soon. Stay warm and cosy 🙂 x

https://livingfully2017.wordpress.com/2019/11/02/if-you-are-facing-a-difficult-festive-and-holiday-season-ahead/

adult and cub tiger on snowfield near bare trees
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Trauma & Recovery ~ be patient through the process.

It’s 00:50 hrs. I can’t sleep. I’m in the midst of the healing process – not always comfortable – and I’m trying to distract myself. I’ve come a long way. A very long way. It’s miraculous that I’m here writing this, and sometimes I forget that. I forget it perhaps because in part I have tried to ‘block out’ the reality of what I had to go through to get here, in order that I can press ahead with my life. But if, like me, you’ve been through or are going through your own recovery process, then you’ll know that sometimes you just have to stop a while, before it all stops you.

Bits and pieces

My great desire is to be a voice of encouragement to someone else going through tough times, like me. Maybe that someone is you, and maybe you have something to share with the world to encourage each other too. I pray over this blog, and I believe that if you’ve stumbled upon it, then it’s not really ‘by chance’. In some way, beyond our understanding, maybe we are meant to connect, to allow our paths, our stories, our healing journeys to coincide.

If you’ve been through trauma, or any kind of suffering, perhaps in your younger, formative years, such that it affected your very sense of self and identity, and if you are a survivor, then you might recognise certain patterns in your psychological survival mechanisms after the circumstances have passed.

I’m not an expert, I’ve read and researched a bit, but I write mainly from painful  experience, authentic, real, lived out experience. People wouldn’t know just from looking at me. Maybe you know what I mean?

First the trauma, maybe repeated trauma, maybe over a period of years. You’re in fight / flight / freeze mode, and ‘exist’ in that way even after the events have passed….long after….your body, mind, brain, nervous system – they’ve all been conditioned that way.

You’re not whole, your insides….well, they’re all in bits and pieces, just like your fragmented memories, your overwhelming emotions, your identity, your life.

‘Getting away’

Fortunately, life comes in waves, in seasons, and nothing stays the same. The darkest of days endure too long, but they also pass. However, even though the events, the seasons, the lived reality passes, it’s still in you, part of you, and you can’t just ‘shake it off’.

So you try to get away. At least, that’s what I did. You can’t always get away physically but perhaps you do. Some of the ways I tried to ‘get away’ from the mess and hurt of it all was to put my head down and ‘over achieve’. I focused on my studies, I aced them, but I couldn’t cope with human interaction. I was so, so very broken, and so terribly afraid. Can you relate? Maybe that’s part of your own story too?

Getting away also in some ways meant telling myself those things are behind me, even though I was crippled and shackled by the piercing pain, I tried to imagine my way out of things – to dream of a future, to overcompensate in trying to think of myself in a new way, whereas all of that was just trying to assuage a wound (as if trying to heal a disease with a band-aid / plaster) that was far too deep to be assuaged, without first coming to the surface in all its awfulness, exposed and therefore painful, leaving me vulnerable, but only then with a chance of real healing.

Breakdown or breakthrough?

Have you lived this too? When you can no longer cope with normal day to day things, when getting through and surviving really is just a facade, and your body, brain and all that you are just won’t let you go any further? The ‘disease’, the trauma in you, is screaming to get out, to be released….and ‘sorry kid, it’s going to hurt a heck of a lot for a long time before it gets any better’.

That’s the short, sweet and sugar coated summary of my experience. It HURT. Goodness, did it all hurt! You know what I’m talking about? Friend, you’re not alone.

What might breakdown look like? Unrelenting panic attacks, inability to function, severe depression, fear, anxiety, flashbacks, C-PTSD symptoms, suicidal ideation, dissociation, nightmares, poor health, weakness, being awake in a ‘nightmare’, avoidance, crying, helplessness, crippling pain, re-experiencing childhood trauma, poor relationships with food and other ‘crutches’ or control mechanisms, relationships falling apart, psychosis, and oh how the list can endlessly go on.

But if you imagine the state of play when someone has a disease, or needs to undergo an intensive operation, then you know logically that things have to get a whole lot worse before they begin to get any better. And perhaps the breakdown is a gateway to a breakthrough. Pus is released, the ‘boil’ is lanced, the intensive operation gets to the ‘root’ of the problem, and only through this messy, painful and unpleasant ‘recovery’ process can things begin to heal.

And truly, we need a Great Physician to do that deep healing work, that purification, bringing the forgiveness, healing, love and restoration that only Christ can bring.

When you want to move forward but your body and mind won’t let you.

I have to encourage myself right now and I hope I can encourage you too. It’s admirable that we’ve got this far, and that we have a vision of leaving it all behind to positively press on into a brighter and purposeful future where we can use the pain and trauma to do good in the world and to help other people.

We’ve got the vision, the goals even plans, but our bodies are in some kind of psychological and emotional toxic shock and we are ‘stuck’. Recovery doesn’t happen over night. We get help, we learn tools and techniques, we cry out for Help and we receive a touch of Grace. But recovery is seldom a linear process and that is a tough and frustrating reality.

Building blocks and stepping stones.

But just for a minute, in case you are getting discouraged, think of how far we have come already. Sure, it would be great to not feel that turmoil of mind, and just press ahead and accomplish what we want to, but we need to be aware of what our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits are saying to us for they might be all telling us to slow down, even to stop….and to heal.

It takes time, practice and patience. It is frustrating, and tough. But these building blocks are stepping stones to the future, and we can’t miss out these ‘baby steps’….of learning to crawl, to breathe, before we can consider walking, running, or even some day taking off in flight, to soar far above the rubble we’ve left behind.

What about right now? 

I’m advising myself, that sometimes we’ve just got to sit through it, bear with it, ‘tough it out’, and let the healing process have its place. We need time and space to get better, and sometimes that means admitting what we perceive to be a (temporary) ‘failure’ – of realising what we can’t do, at least not right now, and giving ourselves the time to recover, train and grow strong so that someday we can do it.

Right now, I’m holding on, being Held, muddling through, finding perspective. You know what I mean, right?

This is it, and this is where ‘life happens to be’ right now – no great offerings of advice, just telling it as it is, and hoping that together we can find the strength and courage to take that one next step in the right direction. I’m rooting for you, and I hope you’re rooting for me too. Be blessed. x

brown and white bear plush toy
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